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A reason one SC retiree doesn't stay home: Capturing injured birds of prey for treatment

Chris Sotiroglou hawk release

Chris Sotiroglou preparing to release a red-shouldered hawk in Summerville on Sunday April 5, 2020. Sotiroglou had found the bird injured weeks earlier, with a broken wing, and a volunteer captured it for treatment at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. Provided

Summerville resident Chris Sotiroglou knew there was something wrong with the hawk standing along Luden Drive, hardly moving as cars sped by in late January.

“He was hobbling around and couldn’t fly," Sotiroglou said.

Hoping to help, he called the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, which he knew of because he plays disc golf nearby at Sewee Outpost.

The center turned to Bob Marriott, a volunteer who retired several years ago from his job as associate dean of the medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Within an hour he was out there," Sotiroglou said. "We had a hard time getting this hawk captured, but Bob was pretty persistent."

The red-shouldered hawk had taken cover in nearby shrubbery. Wearing welder's gloves, Marriott eventually captured it by flushing it out and covering it with a towel. Then he took it to the center, where it was treated for a wing broken in two places.

On Sunday, Marriott returned the bird to Summerville, where Sotiroglou released it from the animal crate in which it was transported.

“He was like a rocket out of the box," said Marriott. “They heal very quickly."

The hawk was one of two Marriott helped release this week. The second, released Monday near Patriots Point and also a red-shouldered, had collided with a Sundrops Montessori school bus coming off the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge weeks earlier.

The bus driver "had come off the bridge and was approaching the traffic light, so he was only going maybe 10 miles an hour, and the bird flew right into the bus," Marriott said. "He got tangled in the front fender, so the bus driver pulled over and got him untangled and wrapped him in a towel and put him on the bus."

That hawk was treated for a concussion, Marriott said. Unfortunately, due to restrictions because of the novel coronavirus that includes school closures, the students were unable to attend the release of the healed bird.

On Tuesday, a juvenile eagle that had fallen from its nest in Mount Pleasant weeks earlier — Marriott retrieved that one, too — was returned to its nest after medical care at the center.

“I’ll typically end up going to get birds two or three times a week," Marriott said. “Last year I drove 2,600 miles retrieving injured birds.

“It’s been the most enjoyable part of retirement," he said. "This is a busy time because lots of birds are nesting or learning to fly, and like student drivers they make mistakes."

At a time when lines have been drawn between what's essential and what's nonessential, the Center for Birds of Prey continues to treat the injured at the Avian Medical Clinic. The center is closed to the public through April.

Efforts to reach the center were unsuccessful Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sotiroglou said the experience of helping rescue an injured hawk and later being able to release it back into the wild was gratifying.

“He was ready to go," Sotiroglou said. “If we hadn’t called Birds of Prey, that bird would most likely be dead."

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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

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